Biden could wipe out $50,000 of student debt per borrower without Congress. Here are 3 other areas where he can help the struggling US economy even with a GOP-controlled Senate.

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President-elect Joe Biden. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden will be inheriting a struggling economy when he takes office in January. Coronavirus infections are reaching new highs with the pandemic showing no signs of abating anytime soon.

Meanwhile, millions of people remain unemployed and permanent layoffs are rising. Small businesses are still shuttering as the recovery shows signs of weakening without additional stimulus.

A pair of Senate runoff races in Georgia will decide which party controls the Senate and the balance of power in Washington. If Republicans keep the chamber, it may be difficult for Biden to achieve many elements of his platform such as tax increases for wealthy individuals and corporations.

But here are four steps Biden could take on his own without Congress.


Biden could forgive a chunk of student debt without any help from Congress.

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Student-loan debt reached a national high of $US1.5 trillion in 2019. Boston Globe/Getty Images

Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren unveiled a proposal for the next president to cancel up to $US50,000 in student-loan debt.

“The President of the United States has the power to broadly cancel student loan debt, help close the racial wealth gap, and give a big boost to families and our economy,” Warren said in a statement in September. “It’s time to use this existing authority and permanently improve the lives of tens of millions of Americans.”

Schumer indicated in a recent interview that such a move could form part of Biden’s early agenda. During the Democratic primaries earlier this year, Warren said she could use executive authority to begin cancelling student debt if she won the presidency.

The Massachusetts senator cited an analysis from Harvard University researchers that found the president could direct the education secretary to cancel student debt on “a broad or categorical basis.”

Biden has proposed forgiving $US10,000 in student debt for borrowers as part of a coronavirus relief package. Nearly 42 million Americans owe debt totaling $US1.7 trillion.


Biden could increase the federal minimum wage for contractors to $US15 an hour.

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The US Capitol. AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Biden can increase the hourly pay for federal contractors.

The president-elect supports a $US15 minimum wage nationwide, though he hasn’t unveiled a timeline to implement it. House Democrats passed a plan last year to gradually reach that level by 2025.

Congress hasn’t bumped up the minimum wage since 2009, when it rose to $US7.25 an hour. This is the longest the US has gone without an increase in hourly pay for workers.


Biden could step up corporate taxes by adjusting regulations with the Treasury Department.

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Exxon Mobil plant in Scotland. Ken Jack/Getty Images

Biden campaigned to partially roll back Trump’s 2017 tax law and increase the tax rate on corporations to 28%. But Republicans are not likely to support the move, and it may be difficult to achieve if Democrats don’t control the Senate.

He could step up corporate taxation by adjusting several regulations with the Treasury Department.

Trump’s tax law reduced the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, the biggest change to the tax code in three decades.

The Trump administration cut the tax liability for multinationals through a combination of new levies known as global intangible low-taxed income and the base erosion and anti-abuse tax. Biden can increase these.


Repurpose unspent federal relief funds.

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Small business closure. Bill Tompkins/Getty

Congress hasn’t spent all the relief funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act passed in March. Biden could repurpose some of the unspent money from the Paycheck Protection Program.

The small-business relief program expired in August with $US130 billion left over.

Monthslong talks between Republicans and Democrats have not produced a new stimulus package, despite economists urging lawmakers to pass one and prop up the economy.